Summer: a time for learning or forgetting?

Family reading

Big Read. Family reading program in Surrey County, UK.

Left to themselves over the summer, children will forget some of the reading and math skills they learned in school. That puts them behind where they ought to be when school starts up again. Students who really struggled in school lose even more skills, putting them even farther behind.

As much as school children need unorganized play time during the summer, it’s not good to leave them entirely to themselves. Most if not all public libraries have summer reading programs. So do many school districts. At the very least, parents, grandparents, or concerned neighbors should encourage children to participate in a reading program.

But good parenting does not simply pass children to some kind of institutional program. Here are some ideas for how parents can informally help their children retain and use reading and math skills over the summer

  • Read stories or poetry to your children and have them read to you. That should be an everyday practice all year, but in the summer you can do it outdoors, perhaps on a break from enjoying the playground at the park.
  • When you take your children shopping, ask them to read labels on packages and ask them to do simple math calculations with the prices or other numbers. For example: Protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram; fat has 9. So given the number of grams of these nutrients on a label, how many calories comes from each?
  • Make simple word games: what is the longest word they know? List five words that start and end with a vowel, or that have three vowels or consonants together, etc.
  • If you go to the zoo, have them write a list of all the animals they see. Then at home have them put the list in alphabetical order and find facts online about their favorite animal.
  • You can also put lists of all kinds of other things, maybe ice cream flavors, in alphabetical order.
  • Have them look through the sports section and have them make a list by sport–so all of the baseball teams mentioned and separate lists for all other sports. Where do these teams come from? Find all the towns and states in your road atlas.
  • Cook with your children. The measurements in recipes make great ways to apply math skills.

These are just a few ways you can encourage you child to keep their math and reading skills alive You don’t need to run them into the ground and make everything a chore. Just challenge them a couple of times a day. Not only will it keep their skills from decaying, it will show them practical uses for them outside of school.

Many students really struggle developing basic reading and math skills in the first place. In some cases, it can be a sign that their parents either can’t or won’t work with them and encourage them.

If your child knows and likes struggling children, include them in some of your regular family activities and encourage them to join your children in their library or school summer reading programs.

All children should know that they can have fun over the summer and not lose what they learned in school. They might even have fun as they learn something new!

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by Surrey County Council News.

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